Scientists: in order for the body to be healthy, you first need to train the brain

This correlation is observed with age: people do less physical exercise and at the same time their cognitive function decreases. Both trends are undoubtedly related, but which of them has a primary impact on the other: physical activity on the brain or vice versa? Scientists in Switzerland have analyzed data from more than 100,000 middle-aged and elderly people, and this has allowed them to refute the widespread belief that physical activity can prevent cognitive decline - on the contrary, brain development can protect against inactive lifestyles. This means that people should "exercise their brains" in the first place. The findings are presented in the journal Health Psychology.

Earlier research on the correlation between physical activity and cognitive skills was based on the premise that the former can prevent the latter from declining. However, Swiss scientists were hesitant about this and decided to conduct a major study on what could be considered the primary.

To do so, they analyzed a database of 105,206 people aged 50-90 from 25 different countries. These people, who participated in the study, had been under observation for 12 years and had been regularly tested for cognitive abilities (fluency, memory, etc.) and physical activity levels.

The specialists made three statistical models: the first one was to study whether physical activity could 'predict' a change in cognitive skills, the second one to 'predict' whether cognitive skills could 'predict' a change in physical activity, and the third one to test the impact in both directions. Calculations showed that the second model was the most appropriate one.

Thus, the study showed that cognitive skills affect physical activity, not the other way around. This means that it is the brain that decides to get rid of a sedentary lifestyle and that the development of cognitive function will contribute to increased physical activity, the authors conclude.

March 26, 2020, 10:53 a.m.

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